Reconsidering the Ruger Mini-14

I owned a Ruger Mini-14 when in college. Briefly. I paid a friend $300 for a gently used stainless steel model with a walnut stock and flash suppressor. The gun was heaven. And that was the problem. I couldn’t shoot just one bullet at a time. It begged to be fired frequently and fast. I couldn’t help emptying the [paltry] five-round magazine in as many seconds. It was an addiction I couldn’t afford on a student’s salary. The least expensive ammo I could find at the time was $0.40 a round and I quickly spent as much to feed the beast as the rifle cost to begin with. Less than three months later I sold the gun for $280. Now I want it back.

The Mini-14 has long been thought to be a poor man’s AR-15, costing at times as little as half the price of a comparable American Rifle. But the Ruger suffered from a reputation as being comparatively crude, dated, and inaccurate. So why on earth would I want one?

Because it isn’t an AR. Whereas the AR-15 and all of its many variants look mass produced and are stylistically cold as death, the Mini-14 – even with a synthetic stock – cuts a classic figure, even historic. It is a scaled down M-14 optimized by designers Jim Sullivan (father of the M-16) and Bill Ruger for the .223 Remington cartridge. Furthermore, the Mini-14 has long been praised for its tank-like durability and real-world practicality.

Perhaps this is why producers chose to put one in the hands of silver-haired silver screen himbo George Clooney in his latest flick, The American, in which he plays an assassin in search of true love and absolution. Or maybe it was a paid product placement coup. Either way, it is a step up from the A-Team.

Today, Mini-14 owners need not hang their heads in shame over accuracy concerns. In 2005, Ruger retooled its Mini-14 manufacturing facility to produce an updated design featuring numerous small alterations that in sum equals much greater precision from the shooter’s bench, returning groupings smaller than 2” with a standard 18.5” barrel and off the shelf ammo at 100 yards, rather than the 5” groupings typical of previous iterations.

Nevertheless, the Mini-14 will never be an AR-15 — for better and worse. Automatic reload is powered by a fixed-piston gas system that will always create a little more jiggle from the [inconsiderable] .223 Remington / 5.56x45mm NATO kick than the direct gas impingement system of the AR-15. At the same time, the breech of the Mini-14 isn’t constantly being gummed-up and roasted by escaping hot combustion gasses that create reliability and early wear problems. Which would you rather live with?

Mini-14s aren’t as cheap as they used to be; street prices for most new Min-14 models range between $650 and $800. That is still less than a basic AR, but it isn’t the bargain it was 22 years ago when I made my first foray into Ruger ownership.

For now I am left fantasizing about shooting at coyotes like a Texas governor with a Stainless Steel Mini-14 Tactical with a polycarbonate stock, 20-round magazine, 16.25” barrel with flash suppressor, and fitted with a red-dot site. Or maybe an 18.5” barrel Mini-14 Ranch Rifle with a classic wood stock and telescopic site. Better yet: one of each.

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About William C. Montgomery

William C. Montgomery is a freelance writer and photographer living in north Texas. His writing covers diverse topics including automobiles, business, politics, and gun rights.

94 Responses to Reconsidering the Ruger Mini-14

  1. avatarLR308 says:

    "For now I am left fantasizing about shooting at coyotes"

    Unless the coyote is within 100 yds all you're going to be doing is fantasizing about hitting it with a mini.
    My Dad bought a new Ranch mini last fall and that thing can't sniff ANY of my AR's for accuracy, not even close. As for AR's being unreliable, I regularly run 4-600 rnds through mine with no problems and no cleaning. Lube em' up again @ 500 rnds and clean it when it hits 1000 rnds. That won't work with Wolf ammo but the same holds true in my experience with mini's and Wolf as well.
    Mini's are light, handy and cool looking but I'll never take one over an AR. In fact I'd take an AK over a mini any day, sorry if I offended any mini owners, just giving my opinion.

    • avatarsteve says:

      Care to shoot a few 5 round groups winner taking both rifles home?.
      My Mini14NRA was sub moa out of the box and has earned me several
      AR’s now in my cabinet. Some folks are ignorant about the improvments in the last few years in the mini’s accuracy. I just use a red dot and do well
      on the range against guys like you..

      • avatarRalph says:

        I find it interesting that AR15 owners virtually always feel the need to chime in, it’s as if there is an insecurity issue or if they’ve been insulted … or as if they are compelled to convince a Ruger owner that their AR is better than your Mini. It’s nice to know their opinion – but its the same old song and after awhile I get tired of hearing it. Just like an opinion (and I’m sure mine will stink to AR owners as well), everyone has individual preferences as well.

        I’ve experienced AR jams, and know of others that would rather pick up an AK (or better yet to have a Walmart close by where they could run in and buy a Mini) and run with it when SHTF just to avoid being in a jam than carry an AR. There, that said, comparing Mini’s and AR’s for functionality, the Mini wins. Cost, the Mini wins again. Show up at your favorite hunt camp with your Mini and feel welcomed, show up with your AR and they’ll laugh at you -whether it’s more accurate then what they are shooting or not. If I want to out shoot an AR I’ll buy an M1A1 or M14, I can get over the weight of one, just not the price. So I’m happy and content to keep shooting my Mini in the field and at matches. A Mini sets in the place where the AR once was. With the money I’ve saved I bought a case of ammo and modded my rifle to where it’s sub 1 MOA (I could of actually bought and modded 2 Mini’s for what I had in the AR). You don’t have to prove to me you think your AR’s better, nor justify your purchase of an AR – if you like it that’s great. Just leave me alone because I feel the same about my Mini.

        On a lighter note – great article!

        See you at the hunt camp.

        • avatarMichael says:

          They definitely do seem to have some insecurity issues that they are dealing with. Unfortunately for them, SWAT actually compared the Mini-14 to the AR-15 and had no clear and decisive winner… meaning that one is just as good as the other. I don’t know about you but I’ll trust SWAT over some anonymous AR-15 owner any day! It seems that AR-15 owners simply can’t handle the truth!

          SWAT test mini-14 vs AR-15

        • avatarPatrick Fealey says:

          Many years ago I shot with a member of the New York State Police SWAT team. Needless to say he could shoot the head off a sparrow. The SWAT weapon of choice then was the MINI-14 with a scope. He let me shoot his gun and it was very friendly and comfortable. Interesting that SWAT was using them before Ruger improved accuracy.

        • avatarNam Marine says:

          I used a Colt M-16 in Vietnam circa 1968. It was a piece of crap! A lot of good Marines died because
          of Mr. Stoner’s junk rifle.
          I now own an accurized Ruger mini 14 tactical. Shoots out to 500 yards, no problem. It has NEVER
          jammed !

    • avatarjim says:

      pure nonsense. outdated info from an AR fan, who always seem to despise mini 14′s.

      probably the reason AR owners dislike mini’s is all the time they spend at the range clearing jams and cleaning out their guns. anybody who shoots next to an AR knows this is true. they are jam-o-matics.

      minis can’t hit a coyote? please….my tapered barrel mini shoots 2″ groups consistantly. that would have to be one mighty small coyote to give me any problems hitting it.

      Minis are better than AR’s overall.

    • avatarBLAMMO says:

      Post a thread or a blog about the AR and nobody mentions anything else. Maybe you’ll get a few AK enthusiasts trolling in but nobody takes them seriously.

      Post a thread or a blog on the Mini-14 and AR enthusiasts come out of the woodwork like collectivist liberals who can’t help themselves, trying to impose their ideologies and lifestyle choices on everybody else.

      Why do AR owners want everybody to dump their Minis and get an AR? As if, just because there are ARs, nobody should ever want a Mini-14. Why do they care? What are they afraid of? They parrot all the criticisms they’ve ever read on the interwebz about the Min-14 and few of them have ever fired one. If the Mini doesn’t appeal to you and you can’t appreciate the differences from an AR, then don’t buy one. Most Mini-14 owners don’t care. More for us.

    • avatarScott Vines says:

      Good for you! But do keep in mind that with the money I saved by not buying an AR, I was able to buy a Weaver 1-3x scope and 1000 rounds of ammunition. As far as accuracy goes, mine will shoot a little over 1 MOA with the right ammo (64 or 69 grain boat tails). With 55 grain bulk ammo, yeah, it shoots 2 MOA on a good day and 3MOA with crappy rounds. But know what? Your sub MOA AR will have no practical benefit in a close range firefight, and 1-1.5 MOA will get the job done on a coyote out to 300 yards, no problem. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking the AR. It’s definitely more accurate – just not 1000 dollars more accurate. And furthermore, if I want sub MOA accuracy, I’ll just shoot my Ruger American .243. I shoot .5 inch groups with a 6X fixed scope on this gun.

  2. avatarMartin Albright says:

    To each his own. I bought a mini-14 in 1983 and shot it on and off until I sold it in 1995. I bought just about every accessory possible for it, including a folding stock, scope mount, flash suppressor and military-style front sight. It was never that accurate but a fun plinking rifle just the same.

    When the Mini was first introduced it's biggest selling feature was its low price – MSRP was $250, exactly half of what you'd have paid for an AR back then. For less than the cost of a basic AR you could buy a Mini and outfit it with a folding stock, sights, and a whole bag of 30 round mags and the ammo to feed it. Interesting that nearly 30 years later the price of a basic AR has only increased about 50% (to ~$750) while that of the Mini has more than doubled (thank stiff competition from a growing number of manufacturers for that one.)

    (Continued below)

  3. avatarMartin Albright says:

    (Continued from above)

    The Mini was knocked off of its cheap-chic pedestal in the 1990s by the mass importation of low priced SKS and AK rifles and the even cheaper 7.62 x 39mm ammo to shoot in them, and seems to have struggled to find itself a niche. I'm not even sure what niche it's in now. It may be more accurate than it was but that's not saying a lot.

    By all appearances my home-built AR is everything the Mini wanted to be and more, and I don't miss the Mini one bit.

    As a side note, anyone remember the XGI? That was the proposed .308 (7.62 x 51mm) version of the Mini-14 that Ruger worked on all through the mid and late 1980's. They never could get it to work, which was too bad as it would have been a fitting competitor to the Springfield M1A. As I understand it Ruger finally threw in the towel and gave us the consolation prize of the Mini-30, a Mini-14 that could shoot the now-cheap 7.62 x 39mm ComBloc ammo that they started importing in the early 90's.

    • avatarWilliamCMontgomery says:

      I find it amusing that anyone would try to SuperSize a Mini-14 to shoot the .308 cartridge. That weapon already exists: the M-14. Sullivan and Ruger "dumbed down" the M-14 action for the smaller .223 when creating the Mini-14. Why would Sturm

    • avatarWilliamCMontgomery says:

      … Ruger & Co. or anyone else would take their Mini design (optimized for small) and try to make it big.

      • avatarMartin Albright says:

        Bill, I think the idea was that a .308 cal "Maxi 14" would undercut the price of an M1A in the same way that the Mini 14 undercut the price of the AR-15. Even back in the 1980's M1A's were pricey rifles.

        • avatarWilliamCMontgomery says:

          Maxi 14 would be as bad a marketing faux pas iPad.

        • avatarMartin Albright says:

          The prototype name was XGI (get it?) I'm not sure what it would have been called if it had actually been released.

    • avatarRalph says:

      Catch up with the times – check out the 6.5 Grendel, in production and a great compromise in weight, power and accuracy. The only issue to be resolved with any Mini is it’s “pencil” barrel, rectify that and you have a 10 ring shooter … and you don’t have to piece together anything at home … unless that’s what your into.

      I’d leave you with the thought that at least Ruger is innovative enough to try different things and keeps it’s production in the US. Watch where your ARs (M4s) start to come from here in the next few years:
      http://mangalorean.com/news.php?newstype=local&newsid=229980

  4. avatarMartin Albright says:

    Actually, the Mini has one other "redeeming" feature, if you want to call it that: It doesn't "look scary" the way an AR does. It slides in under some gun ban statutes because of its non-threatening appearance. Lack of a separate pistol grip helps it out here, too (which can be cured with an aftermarket stock from any number of manufacturers.)

    Don't know if the Mini is California – legal because of that, maybe some CA readers can chime in. If so, that's a definite point in the Mini's favor. To me that's not enough to offset the poor accuracy but, as I said above, to each his own.

  5. avatarMartin Albright says:

    Also I don't live in CA and I don't ever plan to.

    • avatarFusterCluck says:

      2-1/2 years later, coming from someone who lives in California but wishes he didn’t, I hope you kept to that. This state sucks!

      Just bought a used mini 14 for $550. Didn’t know about the accuracy issue with the older models (this one’s a mid-80′s model), oh well. Having trouble finding ammo locally because of current events, but just got my hands on 100rds. Heading out to the desert this weekend to see how she shoots.

  6. avatarZealot says:

    The lack of affordable, relibale, high capacity magazines also hurts the Mini. Ruger wouldn't sell 30 rounders to us civvies until fairly recently and the after market manufacturers have not (as far as I know) been able produce a dead reliable knock off. Even now that Ruger factory mags are available, they're what, double the cost of quality AR mags. So you shave off a few hundred bucks in intial purchase over an AR but almost make that up by outfitting the rifle with a steady supply of magazines.

  7. avatarZealot says:

    Having said that, a stainless Mini with walnut stock beats the tar out of an AR or even an AK in aesthetics, in my opinion.

  8. avatarJohn Boch says:

    So you’re “rediscovering” the Mini-14 based upon an anti-gunner’s new movie?

    Clooney’s new movie is just more Hollywood drivel. If they had only hired someone with half a clue about shooting rifles and precision marksmanship, they would have recognized right off that there is ZERO cheek weld on that Tapco-screwed Mini-14. And a rifleman would have a sling on his rifle, not that apparently this author or anyone on the “American”‘s set is anything other than a cook when it comes to riflecraft, and a poor cook at that.

    I had a Mini-14. I was lucky. Mine came with a full choke. I’ve seen some that shot like they installed an improved cylinder. Reliability sucked, even with factory 20-round magazines that were hard to find and grossly overpriced. If you could get through a magazine without a malfunction of some sort, it was a good day. Several friends had them and I watched on fire three rounds before the trigger assembly fell out of the bottom. Another’s rear sight fell out another day.

    Frankly, we all sold or traded them to people we didn’t like who thought they really were getting something in a Mini-14.

    Oh, and that second photo of Clooney holding the rifle… Hah. For $70 he could have gone to an Appleseed and at least at that point would have looked like he half-way knew his way around a rifle. And he sure wouldn’t have had his booger-picker on the bang switch. I’ve got a crisp $50 bill that says Clooney couldn’t hit a man-sized target at 100 yards three for three using that rifle – assuming it’s a real gun and not a stage prop.

    “Mini-14s aren’t as cheap as they used to be; street prices for most new Min-14 models range between $650 and $800. That is still less than a basic AR, but it isn’t the bargain it was 22 years ago when I made my first foray into Ruger ownership.”

    If you haven’t shopped ARs lately, their prices have come down to that same range.

    In other words, you can buy a real rifle that shoots reliably (if you do your part on preventative maintenance) and straight (straighter than any Mini-14 to ever roll off the factory line at Ruger).

    John Boch

    • avatarWilliamCMontgomery says:

      "So you're 'rediscovering' the Mini-14 based upon an anti-gunner's new movie?"

      "Rediscovering" is your word, not mine. And I was not aware that the Mini-14 was used in The American until I was looking for a photo to accompany this article. I chose these photos because 1) they are current, 2) they provide a good look at the firearm, and 3) the blonde in the sweater (i.e. sex sells — Made ya look!). Afterward I added the blurb about Clooney to the text (see how those three sentences are kinda shoehorned into the piece).

      As for my culinary skills… I make no claim to be a target range rat and I'm certainly not a bench snob. Once I'm sighted in I want to be out in the real world shooting at real targets. Of course the Mini-14 can't drop Taliban fighters at 8120 feet. But I had no problem hitting anything I could see with my Mini-14 22 years ago. If that makes me a bad cook, so be it.

    • avatarGeorge Hull says:

      The “Appleseed Project” is for gullible dopes who actually believe the line of BS they feed people about being able to “teach” anyone to consistently hit a man-sized target at 500 yards with iron sights. Folks who have been around guns their whole life, or who have actually been in the military, know that the average person ain’t NEVER going to able to consistently hit anything at 500 yards with iron sights. By the way, I’ve been to the Appleseed Mecca (Ramseur) and have met “Fred”, and watched him strut around like he is somebody. All the “cook” vs “rifleman” BS is just that – BS – nothing more than a clever hook designed to keep the gullible coming out in droves to fill the “RWVA” coffers. Even the organization’s name is nonsensical. How can there be a “Revolutionary War Veterans Association” when the last verifiable veteran of the Revolution (Lemuel Cook) died in 1866? That his last name is “Cook” is ironic. If you want to shoot well, then just go practice. If you want to waste ammo and listen to a bunch of know-it-alls who would probably s*** their pants if faced with a real shootout, go to an Appleseed.

      PS – the Mini 14 will hit a cantaloupe(head) at 100 yards every time – that’s all that’s required, so good enough.

    • avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

      “Full choke” and “improved cylinder”-from John? Couldn’t help but notice. Now I get it, I thought he was serious.

  9. avatarRobert Fowler says:

    I have both a AR and a Mini-14. You can get reliable 30 rd mags from Brownells for 20 bucks a pop. The biggest complaint I have is finding the ejected brass. I wish someone would make a brass catcher for it. It's like a Easter egg hunt every time I go to the range.

  10. avatarKB n Yucaipa says:

    You can purchase Brass catchers for the Mini 14. Check ebay.

    And yes, a Rifleman always has a QUALITY SLING on His Rifle.

  11. avatarDale says:

    Sounds like a few to many AR snobs to me! While I have used the M-4 operationally in Afganistan and loved the accuracy, it inability to cope with the harsh enviroment and the fact that it needed constant cleaning, sure as hell didn’t win me over! Which is why I picked up the nearest AKM and made it my PDW!
    I’m a civvie now and don’t have the need fir a 300yd assault rifle nor it’s semi-auto cousin! And am more than happy with the little Ruger even if it shoots a half inch to a inch and half bigger groups! It’s plenty accurate for it’s intended purpose and helluva lot more reliable!
    So if you want to shoot competions get an AR, if you just want a depedable little carbine that fires common .223/5.56 for what ever purpose (even saving your bacon!) the Mini 14 will do nicely!

  12. avatarDave says:

    I’ve had my mini 14 for a few years now. It gets plenty of range time and I have kicked a number of AR shooters asses with it’s accuracy at 200 yds. Maybe you AR guys are too busy clearing jams and cleaning your guns to learn how to shoot!

  13. avatarRick says:

    You AR guys are really missing something in your lives. Have any of you guys ever kissed a girl before? Guess what, just because you can make your M forgery look like a cool special operator’s M4, doesn’t make YOU a special operator. You dorks remind me of the kids I knew in junior high school whose daddies would buy them Air Jordan basketball shoes. They thought that because they had $200 shoes, that that made them great basketball players……until they got schooled by some kid wearing British Knights or LA Gears. So AR dorks, put on your best tactical pants, throw on your favorite boonie cap, and pretend you’re going out to get them evil dooers with your big bad “threatening ” looking AR. Oh, and shave off that stupid tactical goatee.

    • avatarJim Wilson says:

      Yes all you AR men/boys just love your black guns and belittle us Mini-14 shooters as if you ever humped a jammin ass M-16 they will let you down! But not the sought after M-14 while in Vietnam. So when the Mini-14 came out bought one for under 295.00 Excellent weapon and has never ever jammed. Ever notice AR types always want to rapid fire and sport moon glasses and goatee and moan when an old man out shoots them free hand at 100 yards!

    • avatarSteve says:

      Well said Rick.

  14. avatarJohnathon says:

    Wow, alot of armchair elitists here!!! Well, if you’re wondering what the niche is Martin “I’m not even sure what niche it’s in now” quoting Martin Albright well it’s made in America, it’s an American classic just like the M1 Garand & M14, the M14 is an excellent battle weapon & is still used by some units in our military because of its’ tried & true design. The mini was built off a scaled down version for the US consumer market. Before the AR platform came out several police departments have used & continue to use this weapon because it’s just damn reliable, & effective…….as far as accuracy, yes it’s had it’s problems. The new new Mini’s has a far improved barrel & has proven itself as a valid contender to the imports, & even to some low end AR platforms. Maybe I’m just a sucker for the classics, but the Mini 14 to me will always be a classic that is worth considering in the array of cheap imports & multiple AR manufacturers today.

  15. avatarMike W says:

    Respectfully, I own both AR-15s, and a mini-30. I do a great deal of pig hunting in Texas so I sent my mini-30 off to a place in Colorado to have some work done on it. I have to say it was expensive and a 6 month wait but it is just spooky accurate now and I love the rifle, it is my favorite pig hunting gun. The Ar-15 are a lot of fun to shoot and have great accuracy out of the box, but do not get the 16 inch barrel, get the 20 inch 1/8 barrel with the 77 grain bullets. This combo is really effective and drops pigs in their tracks. I will say if you want a great inexpensive accurate gun, go with a contender frame and buy different barrels, be careful contenders are addictive once you start shooting them. Just another quick opinion, there is no better rifle out of the box then the M-14 in .308.

    • avatarLeon P says:

      Have a Mini 30 and I’d like to have it worked on or at least quoted for work from your Colorado guy. Would you send me his contact? Thanks

  16. avatarbiffula says:

    The territorial pissing contest by the AR fans here reminds me of Harley owners who get a little chippy when someone talks about how much better their import is. Harley owners don’t like when they realize they overpaid for a name on a gas tank.

  17. avatarmichael says:

    Actually when I started reading this thread I was just starting to think MAYBE it was going to stay on subject without someone rattling the AR chain. I’ve nothing against the AR, I’ve owned them and for their intended purpose and cared for they are more than sufficient. What drew me away from an AR and toward the Mini 14 was the fact that I grew up carrying a wood stock rifle and learned on one. Wood just feels right and warms in your hands when held in the cold woods.. Plastic just seems to stay cold and is so much a lifeless thing. Yes the stock AR I had was more accurate, but the mini isn’t going to stay stock and I really don’t feel the accuracy is lacking for the ranges it was engineered for. As for the perceived flaws?
    The accuracy is for the most part an easy fix though the new 580 series is fine as is for 100 200 yds. The magazine glitch of difficult changes are remedied by practice. It’s easy to clean and isn’t rendered useless if I lose the cotter pin in the dirt. It’s not an AR, never will be, never should be thought of as going there. It is a very reliable small caliber rifle , and in capable hands will kill anything conceivably going to do you harm. It wil put meat on the table and just plain isn’t as scary looking to most civie’s as a decked out AR.
    I think most of the rants by the AR guys are rooted in the fact that they bought a gun that shoots, modified it with a slick thousand dollars in goodies and came to the conclusion that it still, just shoots. The younger generation grew up learning to shoot on Duke Nukem and Doom. We old timers grew up shooting supper or went hungry at times. It doesn’t matter what you shoot, it’s HOW you shoot. And for the most part if you don’t like what you got get something else. If you don’t like what I shoot, well I’m sorry it bothers you.

    • avatarDavid A. Moehrke says:

      I have to agree with Michael If you don’t like what you shoot, then shoot something else. If you don’t like what I shoot, well I’m sorry it bothers you. Oh, no, not really.

  18. avatarTim Strickland says:

    Strange to see all these great reports on the Mini-14. I just bought one and nothing I do will get the group size down below 6″ at just 50 yards! Tried 3 different ammo manufacturers too. The thing just slings lead every which way. This is the most dissapointed I’ve ever been in a weapon.

  19. avatarjim says:

    Interesting degree of emotion here. I just remember sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, and breath control – the stuff my PMIs taught me during phase two of bootcamp. SOI was more of the same. Every military training school I’ve ever attended always went back to those basics.

    As for weapons – M-16s and M-4s can jam – but so can anything else. Never shot a mini-14 but I love my Springfield Scout. Only downside is the cost of .308. Every time I take it to the range I have to think about pulling the trigger – “Dinner out or empty a 20 round mag????” I’d usually end up taking about 5 shots on the 400 range, concluding it is still absurdly accurate, and finding a reason to help my girlfriend with her 9mm. So due to cost alone the .223 version is interesting.

    As for the AR v. Mini argument – went I shifted from Marines to Air Force, the guys in my office would sometime go out shooting with their tacti-cool M-4s with all the trimmings. Just for giggles I would always take along my lil 10/22 with 16 inch barrel, wood stock and iron sights – thing looks about as intimidating as a red rider bb gun – then I’d outshoot their tacti-cool M-4s with red dots the entire time. In short -the software is more important than the hardware – could also be that I can shoot the 10/22 without thinking about ammo cost – I’m pretty frugal.

  20. avatarWillie Lam says:

    Never owned or shot an AR, but my mini 14 is plenty accrurate for me. Both me and my 15 year old daughter can hit 8 out of 10 times with the factory iron sights at a 12″ metal plate at 300 yards resting on a gun bag. We also can hit 10 out of 10 at a 10″ plate at 100 yards in 7 seconds standing since the recoil is so light. It is fun for me to watch my 15 year old daughter outshoot all the guys with their camo clothes and AR’s and AK’s at the range with our “cheap” mini 14. This is with a 25 year old mini(serial # 184…) with no modifications other than a folding stock. I do reload and have found different bullets and powder charges do affect accuracy significantly. Not sure if the stock improves accuracy over the factory stock or not. Just found out my folding stock and pistol grip makes it an illegal assault weapon in California so I’m just ordered a Hogue stock. Heard these Hogue stocks do improve accuracy.

  21. avatarcindy says:

    Boys, Boys, Boys….easy now. Whatever a person shoots does not matter as long as she or he can hit what they intend. I have AR .223 and .308. I have mini -14. I have M1 Garand, i have 30-06. I like ‘em all. They all do the job IF a person has the skill to know how to make each perform to the best of its ability. Mini’s are less threatening LOOKING that’s all.
    Thanks for the article, it made me take the mini out for a spin at the range.

  22. avatarDale Heaton says:

    In March, I attended the 2 Day Practical Rifle Course at FrontSight Institute. My Mini-14 out shot 90% of the AR’s on the course. I had only been shooting .223′s for about 8 months vs all of the military and law enforcement guys and gals. I had the only Mini there. Very satisfying results. All shots were in a 8″ pattern at 200 yards.

  23. avatarchaz says:

    I have to say this, I have both a mini and an ar I love them both.
    They both have their place in my safe, and they both have their purpose.
    I love my 195 series mini and have owned it for a long time,
    I can blast the center out of a clay pigeon @80yrds ( I have the clay to prove it)all day long, my mini eatswolf,tula,and both bears, all day long and function great.
    My AR works just as well with all the cheap ammo.
    Both rifles have had only one problem and that is magazine issues on occasion.
    I have hunted a variety of critters with my mini upto deer and it Always puts meat on the table. my bottomline is Both rifles are great, Both rifles perform as they are supposed to. When hunting I use my mini 14. when varminting I use my AR cause in my experience I get a little more range out of it, but I have varminted with my mini and I just hate to have to wait a little longer but, I do make better shots with the mini….hmmmm, lol (some of you get that) so let’s cut this nonsense which is better than which when it all comes down to “Philosphy Of Use” just ask nutnfancy lol

  24. avatarKen says:

    I am a Vietnam era vet and was a BRM rifle instructor at several military installations for 7 years. Have taught the M-14 and the M-16 rifles. The changeover to the M-16 was due to one reason only-Full Automatic firepower and rifle weight.Yes, the M-14 will fire on full auto, but very hard to control. Having said this, I prefer the M-14 for reliability and ease of operation, thus also said for the Ruger Mini-14. The AR’s are fine, but my M-16, the new improved one in the military with a dust cover/door would still jam. After the changeover the M-14 was kept for a sniper rifle with scope and still used today in some applications. I bought a Mini-14 several months ago and the nostalgia returned. Wood stock and 10 rd mags (Here in NY we cannot have 20 rounders). The rifle is solid, easy to use and clean, accurate for my tastes and above all TOUGH! Learn to use the sights like we had to in the military, and you will be a very good marksman. I have fired several AR’s and cannot knock them, but to me they seem like toys! A “tricked out” AR will costs big bucks, for what? to hit a zombie at 100 yards? The mini will do the same thing just as good. I say to each his own, but when and if the zombies come, a hit with a .223 will work just fine. I just have a negative thing about plastic composite guns! Sadly to say, there will come a time when everyone will and must defend themselves, from rioters, UN blue helmets, Obama’s private neighborhood army, or whatever. Just get the gun you like and learn how to shoot it accurately and effectivly. Stock up on ammo while you can (1000 rds+). I have mine stored in medium gun safes and steel ammo cans. Dont forget food to. May God help this country if it comes to this.

  25. avatarEric says:

    LOL – I really like the differing opinions! I would think both camps (Mini/AR) have pluses and minuses. For me, if I bring home a black-gun, my wife would think I am going off the deep end.. But that harmless looking Mini? Naa – she would think it was cute. So for me, I am getting similar functionality of the AR platform in a socially acceptable package. My only concern, now, is getting one (and some ammo) before they become illegal. Shoot straight, and be safe..

  26. avatarJake says:

    It’s amusing that the thread has gone on for more than two years, and that the AR folks talk more about how bad the Mini is rather than how good the AR is. They’re both good, with each having a small edge on certain characteristics.

    For me, the Mini was the choice because it looks and feels like the guns I grew up with and it has the reputation of running like the Energizer bunny. The “doesn’t look like an AR” factor would be weighted even heavier now.

  27. avatarOz says:

    I grew up shooting flintlock/percussion smokepoles and JC Higgins Bolt Actions. In fact I still own my JCH 12, 16, 20 gauge scatterguns and .22LRS. dropping both small and large game from NC to Colorado. In the service I was introduced to the ARs and taught marksmanship. We were taught sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, and breath control as well, to add being able to dry fire with a dime balanced on the barrel without knocking it off. Those are the basics of excellent marksmanship regardless of what you’re shooting.
    I researched both the ARs and the Minis, looking at ballistics, reliability, accessories etc. Based on the intended purpose, (when TSHTF) I decided on the Mini because of it’s reliability, and like “Jake” it looks and feels like the guns I grew up with. it also has the durability of a Tank. I appreciate everyone’s input on all the forums and reviews. There is a lot to be learned from both how others praise and defend their weapons, to the vehemence when attacking other makes/models. In all they have been a great resource.

    Merry Christmas All,

  28. avatarSeaDawgg says:

    I own both , a 580 series SS Ranch Mini and a DPMS AR15 and with the exception of a trigger job and a scope my Mini is completly stock…. Ive bolted on everything you can think of on my AR and gave it that ”I paid alot for this look” but to be honest with you I like my Mini better, if I was ever to sell one the AR would go first. They both shoot about the same…. benched with a scope 1 to 1 1/2 inch groups @ 100 yrds, a plus for the Mini is it eats steel ammo with out fail and it just feels great in the hands.

  29. avatarScorpio says:

    I have a mini 14 series 195 stainless I purchased about 15 years ago. After reading all the threads I feel I need to buy the new 580 series, then I ask myself why? As Oz
    says “learn to shoot what you have” The only thing I dont like about the 195
    series is the cheap flip up rear sight, but that cannot justify $800 for a new gun
    and then what would I do with the old one? I have trial and error with several
    after market mags 30, 20, and 10 rounders. Kept the ones that work and threw
    the bad away. Accuracy? 100 yards is not a problem although match shooting would be out of the question for me. I also have much Russian made Wolf and
    Silver Bear ammo that is reliable. My backup gun? Russian SKS.

    • avatarJohn says:

      you can purchase an “Accu-Strut” for less than 100 bucks to help with any accuracy issues. I added one to my mini and had about a 25 percent tighter group.
      It’s a DIY project and it makes you mini look like a m-14.
      Enjoy!

  30. avatarvince says:

    Wow. Learned nothing here. was doing some fact finding and came across, what appears to be a pissing match. Love it. Well i have been an avid sportsman and outdoorsman since i was a little guy. Also, own alot of guns with different calibers now. There are four main components to initiate a bad shot pattern . The Barrel, the ammo, the windage and the shooter. Regardless of gun manufacturer or how cool it looks, or what caliber it is,all four components should be considered when passing judgement on performance of any gun. Sounds like some of you people need to go back to the range and do some re-configuring. We should just be happy we can still buy and own guns for the time being. And by saying your gun is beefed up and looks scary, your are just giving fuel to the anti-gun mob and they are thanking you right now. So, everyone have fun and keep blaming the guns for your horrible shooting.

  31. avatarBrandon says:

    Hi all. I’m ex-miilitary (jet mechanic in the USAF) and haven’t fired a rifle since qualifying over 12 years ago. With that said, I’ve recently come to the decision to purchase a mini after what I believe to be some well-rounded homework.

    Intended purpose is self-defense and I’d also like to get into hunting. My dad never took me growing up and I feel like I’m missing out.

    Anyways, what kind of brush-up courses would you suggest or initial steps to take to ensure safety, improve accuracy and anything else you can think of that would be very important as a 1st-time gun owner?

  32. avatarJeff says:

    Was an Infantryman from 1980 to 1986. I carried a M-16A2 rifle….alot. It was an good rifle as for accuracy but it did have some problems. As for keeping it clean, anyone who’s ever started their military hitch at the Fort Benning Infantry School knows that cleanliness wasn’t the problem. I have gone to the range with a newly cleaned rifle and after shooting a 20 target set, that is, 20 rounds at 20 different targets, I have had as many as two rounds to fire during the alibi round. Simple math, I had 18 rounds out of 20 that didn’t have to reloaded and refired. I suppose thats why they called it alibi fire. The alibi was the darn thing jammed and the round had to be dumped and a new round loaded. I was fresh off the farm, but i kinda had had an idea there might be a problem when the instructor explained about the “forward assist”. In fact the Government actually came up with an

  33. avatarJeff says:

    (continued)
    acronym S.P.O.R.T.S to clear jams. I have owned a couple of AR series rifles in the years since and they all performed the same way. They shot straight when they shot….and that was the vast majority of the time, but they did jam more that I was comfortable with. I have owned several .30 carbines and a few mini 14′s and I do know that from a supported position such as a sand bag the AR’s will shoot tighter group. I also know from real life experience that both rifles, the AR’s and Mini-14′s, shoot the same MOA running and gunning. In real life situations where you might need your weapon to defend yourself, or take out a sneaky predator in the hen house at night, both rifles will shoot the same group. As for me, I’ll choose reliability every time. I have no bone to pick with AR’s or the AR crowd, the rifle is really fun to shoot, I just hate to see a good weapon like the mini-14 given a bad rap. Buy what you want and enjoy your days off, but if you choose the AR series, learn what all combat soldiers that were issued them learned. Squeeze Pull Observe Release Tap Squeeze.

  34. avatarBigFrank says:

    So many people complain about the accuracy of the Mini 14, but I bought my first one just a few weeks ago and it seems pretty good. If you’re a benchrest shooter trying to make sub-moa groups, the accuracy will be disappointing. I can hit a torso sized metal plate consistently at 300 yards with no problems, and with iron sites. For me, that sort of real-world accuracy is just fine.

  35. avatarCoyote sniper says:

    After reading through all the coments, I have to respond to the “not being able to hit a coyote” remark. I’m an avid varmint caller (mostly coyotes). My gun of choice for many years was a sporterized SKS with illuminated Barska (I know, cheap but so was the gun and I wouldn’t put too much lipstick on a pig). It was accurate enough to be reliable to 200 yards on coyotes. I switched to a new Mini 14 last year with a Leupold scope since I felt like I had cheaped out for all those years on my gear with that SKS (which, btw, NEVER jammed or missfired once). I’m comfy to 300 and 400 yards now on yotes with the Mini. If you can’t hit one at that range with your gun…spend some more time at the range. The only aftermarket items I’ve added besides the scope were some 10 round mags. For my requirements, I like carrying a couple of 10 rounders vs a 30 rounder poking out of the bottom, just my preferrence.

    • avatarensitu says:

      I know a guy that owns 2 ARs and 2 Old Style Minis with the skinny barrels
      My friend cut down the barrels on his Minis to 16.25″ added muzzel breaks to add more mass, had the triggers redone, added 1911 buffer pads front and rear to reduce the harmonics and can now shoot 1.5 MOA from a rest.
      His ARs shoot the same but without the robust extractor, gas system and op-rod are finicky, his varmint modle will puke on ammo the Mini gobbles-up!

  36. avatarScott says:

    I know i am getting in late on this thread but would like to ask the mini guys a question. A friend recently purchased one and it does what an earlier poster had said. about every 3-6 rounds the trigger guard pops out and dumps the bottom out. He is wanting to sell it to me and i like the looks of the rifle and the shooting ability. I also own an AR but to me it is not an argument between the two. So is this an easy fix or is the gun shot?

  37. avatarraf says:

    3 things every owner of an older Mini should do:

    1) Examine inside of muzzle for wear due to improper cleaning technique. LOTS of Mini barrels have been screwed-up in the vital last few fractions of an inch by ignorant owners.
    2) Identify your Mini’s barrels’ rate-of-twist (Ruger used different rates over the years) and use the correct weight bullet for YOUR barrel.
    3) Either bed your barreled action into the original wood stock, or buy a tighter-fitting synthetic stock.
    4)Adding an Accu-Strut to the MINI will GREATLY reduce size of groups, as will Cryo-Treating the barreled action. The Accu-Strut is DIY. (No financial interest).
    I own both a Colt Match HBAR and a 185 series pencil barrel Mini-14. The Colt is definitely more accurate, but my tweaked Mini-14 will do 2 MOA all day long with good quality ammo.
    Long story short: I’ve won a LOT of bets from shorty AR owners who were long on expensive gear, but short on shooting under pressure.

  38. avatarEnhydra lutris says:

    I bought a mini last October because it was cheaper than an AR. Interesting how the low end AR is now substantially cheaper than a mini.

    I also refitted the stock with an ATI full of plenty of picatinny rails. It is the ugly all black with two pistol grips, but it does the job. With a cheap red-dot, I’ve been able to get 3″ groupings at 100 yards, resting the pistol foregrip on the table. I’m really not that great of a shot, so I was pretty surprised at this especially because at that distance the red dot encompasses the entire width of the target.

    What happens at the range doesn’t always stay at the range. Having never shot an AR I don’t know if it is ‘better’ or ‘worse’, but what I do know is that my mini works great out in the field and turns me into an effective predator.

  39. avatarDash says:

    Honestly, I like both ARs and the Mini-14, but as things currently stand, I’d rather have an AR. If Ruger could get over it’s “we MUST have proprietary mags” mentality and make a Mini-14 that used AR mags, I’d buy one in a heartbeat. This is especially important for me because I live in MA, where pre-ban magazines are a must if you want anything that holds more than 10 rounds. Ruger will never do this, and hence, I will never have a mini-14 unless I move to a different state (one day…hopefully).

  40. avatarJim says:

    I recently got a Mini14. It’s from the mid 80′s and shoots just as accurate as my AR. Don’t know where in the hell the accuracy problems came in. As for price it was only $300. Overall I would choose the Mini over an AR any day.

  41. avatarTacrancher says:

    My first semiauto rifle was a 181 mini-14. The best groups I could get out of it was 4″ at 100yds at a bench. Discusted I was. I traded it for a AR-180. What a difference in accuracy, weight and mounting optics. Looks like a mechanical monster. Decades later, the whole time, I still liked shooting the mini-14 better. Now I have the 6.8SPC mini-14. This rifle shoots 3/4″ at 100yds. I also have the NRA version. They have the accuracy thing figured out. What a good coyote and cugar rifle that 6.8 is!

  42. avatarCaveman says:

    I know it’s a two year old thread but I had to reply to George Hull. For decades the Marine Corps has been teaching average young men to consistently hit torso sized targets at 500 yards with open sights. Very, very few new recruits fail to qualify and you can’t qualify unless you are at least somewhat able to accurately shoot at 500 yards. In fact, the 500 yard prone slow fire is one of the easier strings of fire we do.

    As to the Mini vs AR debate, to each his own. Owned both, shot the AR extensively in competition, was considered a “dinger” in my day, blessed with the resources to own any gun I want. I don’t presently own an AR and never intend to own another one. My two favorite long guns I presently own are a Mini-14 and a Mini-30. Never, ever getting rid of either one.

    BTW, I despise Tacticool anything. Gizmos do not a shooter make. Every time I see some cowboy show up at the range with his hi-tech, blacked out, electronically enhanced zombie gun I just can’t help but laugh.

  43. avatarWally1 says:

    I have shot many Mini 14′s in the last 40 years, I agree the early pencil barrel 14′s had accuracy problems as well as early mini 30′s. One thingthat they did right was, they all went bang. In a battle rifle reliability is #1 concern. I now have a mini 14 stainless/composite stock in 6.8 SPC. Very accurate 100-200 yards and never ever had any type of feed/extract issue. I see that this caliber was not a large seller probably because of the cost of ammunition and it was dropped from the Ruger semi auto rifle line-up. I have my own home built DPMS ar-15 and a AR-10, both are very reliable and accurate. I recently looked at the ruger SR556E, very nice piston gun, but for and extra $300 I could have a Springfield M1A. What would be really great if the M1A could be had in .243. I am also surprised that .243 caliber never really caught on in a AR platform. Believe that this is a much better caliber for medium game than 5.56/.223 and most states will not allow .22 caliber or smaller to be used on anything bigger than a coyote.

  44. avatarShawn says:

    Today I bought a Ruger Mini 14 for about $860 and feel that I made the right choice in buying my first personal rifle for hunting, defense, and survival purposes. It was difficult deciding between buying an AR, AK-47, and Mini 14. Why did I buy the Mini 14? Its compact and different then your average everyday AR, doesn’t jam as easy as an AR and more affordable. The new Mini 14s are very accurate then the older models. Everyone has to choice there own weapon based on what you feel comfortable with, I took a liking to the Mini 14 the minute I saw it. Perhaps it’s because it has my generation flavor of 1973 the day I was born. For those that think the Mini 14 is not as lethal as an AR, you are seriously wrong based on these two criminals that used the weapon on innocent people that caused serious wrongful death. Anders Behring Breviki used a “Ruger Mini 14″ that killed 77 people and Marc Lepine who killed 14 people. The Mini 14 is nothing to play around with and hopefully those who own one are responsible and mentally stable individuals. 10, 20, 30, 40 round mags are dirt cheap and easy to obtain in Arizona state. 20 up to 40 round mags are banned in California unless you’ve owned the mags before the 1994 mag ban. It really all comes down to what best fit your interest and style and the Mini 14 is more then just a Ranch Rifle, it’s a butt kicker.

  45. avatarAdam says:

    Ar baby, Ar

  46. avatarGary says:

    In the movie The American, the rifle George Clooney used was not a Mini-14. It was actually a Ruger AC 556.

  47. avatarBill says:

    I love my mini 14! But just so the guy who started this blog knows, AR means Assault Rifle, not American rifle.

    • avatarmike says:

      Actually AR means Armalite Rifle. Not assault rifle, that’s a made up term invented by dumbacrates

      • avatarKyle says:

        Well actually “assault rifle” is a technical term that refers to a select-fire weapon that fires an intermediate power cartridge. “Assault weapon” is the term made up by the gun control proponents.

  48. avatarRoger says:

    For what it’s worth, in California, as of 10/19/13, the Mini-14 does not require a tool (bullet button) to remove the magazine. You can just press the release lever.

  49. avatarGlenn Gordon says:

    Heads up I own an Ruger AC 556 with a heavy barrel in a clyde stock and I get 3rd burst that touch each other at 100 yards all day. on full it has never jammed and I use beta 100rd dumps. When we first got the 16 it came with no forward assist or cleaning kit. Most jammed after as little as 60 rds. Look up how many 223 rds. per dead nva we got with them. It was around 5,000+++rd per kill look it up. We also get about the same with the newer ones that are jamming in the sand just like the jungle. When the troop pull down comes they are eliminating the m 4, m16, saw and the m60 all from the jam. GG look it up

  50. avatarRob says:

    Well I’ve heard all the arguments between AR15 & Mini14 owners before. No need to repeat any of that here. The one thing that I will state however is that the Ruger Mini14 has a couple of things that the AR15 will never have: Class & Looks. And quite frankly my old 180 series shoots great.

    • avatarRob says:

      Oh, and by the way, I have owned mine for about 38 years and no longer have a clue how much ammo I’ve pounded through it. It still shoots beautifully. Like the man said, they will get the gun when they can pry it from my cold, dead fingers. Haha

  51. avatarDavid says:

    I don’t get all the arguing, I own a mini-14, an AR, and an AK and love all 3 guns. To me they each serve a different purpose. Comparing the three is pointless, and arguing over them even more pointless.

  52. avatarTodd says:

    I used ARs in the service, accurate but finicky. A great weapon when one has hours of down time to clean and maintain. I have numerous different weapons each for specific purposes. I am a lifelong survivalist, my Mini-14 was purchased because despite all the bells and whistles, it remains the American version of the AK-47, a tank that takes a beating and comes back strong every time.

    IMHO – The Mini-13 is a top-tier survival rifle. It eats just about everything it’s fed, easy to disassemble-clean-reassemble, it is accurate and (like ARs) there are a ton of them around.
    My needs are short to mid range engagements, I want something that can effectively and reliably engage targets of both the 2&4 legged kind, protect my home, family and also put food on the table.

  53. avatarGregg says:

    Love the Ranch Rifle. Had one a few years ago, had to sell it.
    Bought one today. Read about the price/scarcity of magazines in the above post. Dug around in my safe, found three!
    Happy , Happy, Happy!

  54. avatarBrent says:

    So does anyone know if my mini 14 can be sent back to Ruger to have the barrel updated? or possibly buy a different barrel for it, (I’ve heard the short stainless barrel that I have is the cause of my issues) my mini I’ve had about 10 years and has 300 or less rounds through it because it is so grossly inaccurate. I have tried many different ammos and it doesn’t seem to like any of them. I really like the gun, and don’t want to get rid of it, plus its one of only two highpowers that I own, and the other is a .300 Winmag so no varmint hunting there; but it does me no good in its current condition.

  55. avatarKyle says:

    I like both. And IMO, nothing wrong with having a “tacticool” rifle so long as you realize that it doesn’t make you into any elite soldier or anything. But nothing wrong with having a cool-looking rifle.

  56. avatarGabe says:

    Why does every “old-timer” forget about inflation? $300 in 1978 equals $990 in 2010 dollars. So the Mini 14 is actually around 30% less, for a new rifle. CNC machining has brought down costs, as has increased factory efficiency.

  57. avatarBill from Boomhower, Texas says:

    Well I’vegot thirty years in of serious adult hunting, not to mention several years as a boy, toting a Winchester model 42 .410, a model 43 in .22Hornet, and a half magazine ’94 in 25.35 w/Marbles peep sight, before becoming an adult, but have not hunted in this millinium, due to disability. I did however, buy a Century ZASTAVA M70 AK, and a couple of .45 handguns, then a couple of tactical 12ga guns last year. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the opportunity to hunt again, but would now like to have a mini 14, and a Mossberg MVP. I know nothing first hand about either the mini or the AR, only what I’ve read about them, but I know how little I like to clean any of my guns, and feel that a stainless Mini-14 would serve me better. When I bought my AK, the AR-15s were already much more expensive, and quickly climbing beyond what I could afford. Nowadays, neither are reasonable, in my opinion, but I agree with David above, if I could afford it, I’d probably own one of each. They’re two different guns, and neither are perfect, but owning both, you could enjoy the virtues of each in a comprehensive manor, and appreciate them for what they are. I like the Ithica 37 and the Remington 870. They function similarly, but are different. Rather than argue the point with myself, I own both. Now, I’m wanting an H&R Ultra Slug Hunter, also a 12ga, but in a totally different direction. I’ll probably get one. Be happy for the guy who can buy what he wants, and be happy we have choices.

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